Also referred to as: South Side Harbour Landscaping Crew, Captain Bacon and The Lords of Thunder, The Ladies Thunderbottom
Every summer I bring in three to six ten-week old Landrace pigs – the goal being to bulk them up in time for freezer camp in the late fall. Raised in an outdoor, portable shelter, the pigs are moved about a section of pasture (which they merrily tear up and fertilize) keeping them active, happy, and able to indulge in a case of the zoomies at any time.
A Note On Raising Your Own Pork
For anyone interested in raising their own pork it’s important to consider not only space requirements, shelter, and the work involved but also the cost. Healthy animals require all of the above and a healthy diet. I am happy to chat with anyone interested in the costs associated with raising your own healthy (happy!) pork but please understand that you cannot skimp on what it takes to raise a healthy animal and expect good results. It is grossly unfair to the animal and you are ultimately working against yourself.
Although I have been cautioned that the delightfully pink Landrace breed can be prone to sunburn, I’ve found that giving them enough water to make a nice mud wallow on the really hot days coupled with the ready access to shade has prevented mine from experiencing nothing worse then a deep tan on their ears.
The shelter design is simple enough – take four pallets, two to a side, and attach them at right angles to make a triangular structure open at both ends. With the addition of half of a fifth pallet to the end and a tarp across the ‘roof’, you have an open bottomed shelter that is easy to move, well ventilated, and keep the piggies dry and out of the sun.
I find that having an open-bottomed shelter allows the piggies to stay cool during the day as they can lay directly on the shaded ground. Maintenance so far has simply involved replacing the tarp at the end of each year. Unlike my first shelter which had a wooden floor, cleanup is easier, movement is much simpler and I find the pigs sleep inside during hot days as opposed to trying to find a shaded spot outside of the old shelter to bed down in.
Diet consists largely of Purina feed, supplemented with the pasture, goats milk (and whey from cheese making), and lots and lots of apples as the fall approaches. Treats are usually apples from the my own land or the odd carrot. Once a week or so after they’ve topped a hundred pounds or more they’ll each get a large, white marshmallow as a treat. This inevitably results in a case of the zoomies followed by a long nap.
It is expensive to raise pigs (relatively speaking). Each animal can be expected to consume 250 kg of feed between when it arrives at the age of ten weeks and when it is sent off to freezer camp. Although it is possible to easily replace some of this feed with scraps, expired bread, or other cast-off food, I avoid doing so.
By supplementing their diet with a healthy mix of fruit, vegetables, and goats milk I can be sure that the animals are healthy, happy, and very tasty.
In Nova Scotia it is no longer legal to sell pork at the farm gate unless it has been processed at a government inspected facility. Therefore I do not have any pork to sell at this time.
Lean, lightly sweet, and very juicy – pork from pigs that have lived a good life, with lots of room to move around, abundant variety of fresh food, stimulated and able to play, produces an exceptionally healthy and tasty cut of meat. I’ve seen animals raised in relative confinement and watched as they easily put on 50-60+ more pounds in the same time frame as my own (relatively) lean animals and I would rather have the satisfaction of knowing my piggies had a good life then an extra box of pork for the freezer.
Pigs are inquisitive, they can be cute, and they are very vocal when they are happy. Unlike chickens which some people have difficulty interacting with due to their stand-offish nature, pigs are very social. They quickly make associations with who brings them food and it is generally no more than a few days after they arrive that they can be scratched behind the ears. Within a week or two they can be patted and aside from being naturally inquisitive, are safe to walk amongst when well fed.
Although I don’t allow visitors to pet or otherwise touch my piggies, I do encourage folks to feed them treats in the form of apples, carrots, or on occasion – marshmellows.
Pigs like to root. A lot.
Since my pigs are moved about pasture and contained by electric fencing, they have both the opportunity and motivation to tear the heck out of everything they can get their snout into. The result is a thoroughly turned over, aerated, and fertilized section of pasture. Aside from 30 minutes of work every week to ten days to shift their shelter and fencing, all this comes as a ‘free’ bonus of keeping pigs.